I’m An Expert

Twice today i was asked for advice. One was on a topic i am well-versed in. The other was about something that, well, i had to ask myself if they sent the text to me by accident. Surely no one who knows me would use my take on the subject as anything but humor. In any case, it got me to thinking… In my life, i have seen a lot, been thru a lot. I guess that makes me a decent source of advice for quite a few things. But i’m not the Highlander, so there are still many life experiences i have yet to deal with. Shall we rummage thru a general list, in case you should ever need my advice?

– I have traveled quite a bit outside the country. If you need advice on compact packing, surviving layovers, approaching locals, or how to carry your money safely, i’m your gal. But my sense of style is based on practicality, comfort, and looking classier than i am… So if you want advice on how to fit 4 pair of slut shoes into your carryon, you’ve got the wrong broad.

– Given my line of work, i can give you a decent explanation of tests and conditions relating to Cardiology, Radiology and women’s health. And as a mother of three with long term MDD, i have a reasonable grasp of childhood ailments and mental health. I am happy to impart what knowledge i can. But please don’t ask me if your neurologist is taking proper care of your brain tumor or if you should see a dermatologist about that boil on your bum. I have no flipping idea. (And i REALLY don’t want to see that boil!)

– I spent a generous part of my childhood in a home where alcohol, drugs and various types of abuse were routine. I will help anyone i can to deal with those circumstances or the scars they leave, as my sister and i are living proof that you don’t have to succumb to statistics. But after all we went thru, please don’t ask me to help you put another person thru it. That just makes me want to hurt you.

– I have been married and divorced three times. Two of those, with the fathers of my children, remain amicable. So if you want advice on how to keep a civil relationship after divorce or how to co-parent with an ex, i can give you some ideas that will hopefully get you started on a good path. I can also tell you what i know about divorce law. But if you want my advice on marriage, you might want to request my advice on mental health instead. Just sayin’.

– I have studied and taken extensive college courses in comparative religion. I love good discourse on faith and spirituality, and i am blessed to know people of various religions who are good walking examples of their faiths. If you need a sounding board for your evolving faith or need someone to accompany you to a new religious service, just ask. But if you want me to condone your defamation of a religion that you don’t like, just go ahead and kiss my arse. That’s what it will come to.

– Since i minored in cultural geography in college, see the last bullet for other cultures as well.

– I am a Star Trek fan. If you want a good old-fashioned debate on Kirk vs. Picard, the evolution of the Klingon Empire, or why i think Jadzia Dax was the sexiest ST character EVER, i will be more than happy to do so. Especially after a glass of wine. But ask me about Star Wars, and i’ll start quoting Space Balls on you.

– I can quilt, crochet, sew, and tat lace… But i don’t have the attention span to do large or intricate projects in spite of the fact that i keep my closet stocked for them. So if you are in need for chartreuse yarn and the store has already closed, give me a call. If you want to learn to make a granny square or how to do Irish Chain, invite me over for coffee. If you ask how long it would take me to alter and re-line your brother-in-law’s authentic Civil War reenactment uniform… The very real answer is, “Longer than it takes to read Crime and Punishment.”

– I am a 48 year old woman with kids, curves, and scars. If you want some brand names of large-cup bras that do their job, i’ll let you rifle thru my bureau. If you slip your 22 year old size 2 body into a pair of see-thru jeggings and ask me if they make your ass look fat, my only advice will be some authentic Italian hand gestures.

– I am a tea whore. Seriously. I love the taste, smell and tradition of tea. I buy from a Master Blender, and i can identify the teas “notes” like others deconstruct wine. Tea is my both my caffeine and my valium. The making of it is therapeutic to me. If you are looking for a perfect blend or want to put together a tea gift basket, i am full of ideas! If you want to know how many lipton bags to put in your windowsill iced tea jug, you are out of luck.

– I am a writer. I love words. Especially ones that make you laugh or think. If you received a thoughtful gift and want to word a special thank you, if you are doing the crossword and need an eight letter word for “unreal” , if you got a snarky email and need a witty retort… Honey, i’m all about it. But if you ask me to proofread a message that is essentially a string of texting vernacular, expect to get a raised eyebrow and a witty retort.

– Lastly, what i write on here is who i am. For better or for worse, this is me. If you are having to host a dinner party that includes a rabbi, a Croatian fish farmer, and a transvestite, i’d be happy to attend and keep everyone involved in the conversation. Hopefully, i will also keep them all laughing and help them realize that we all have a lot in common. But if you need someone to speak on the tragedy of orphan beatings at a general assembly of the Papal council, for the love of God, don’t ask me!

We all have our areas of expertise. Every single human on this Earth has a gift that is meant to be shared and wisdom that is meant to be imparted. Most of us have a fair idea of what we can speak intelligently about in times of crisis. To identify the ones who have no idea? Ask them what they can’t tell you about.

Never Pretty. Always Beautiful

I am not a pretty woman. From what we see and hear in our world, beauty is about a flawless, symmetrical face with a tiny waist, rock-hard bum, perky breasts, long, flowing locks and an age that is never more than 28. I have lines and crags and freckles and scars and dry skin and smooshy parts and a barely-there bum and I have never found a way to defeat gravity. But as depressing as that is, I take comfort in the fact that most women are like me.

Tho we women flog ourselves daily for not being pretty, no one else seems to care. We scrub and scrape and color and cut and spackle and Bond-O and nip and tuck. We squeeze ourselves into shoes that will eventually deform our feet. We inject ourselves with plastics and poisons. We paint ourselves with chemicals known to cause cancer. We pay good money for just the right amount of radiation burn.  We strap ourselves in and suck ourselves up and point ourselves out just right. Every day. All in hopes that someone will notice and think we are pretty. And yet, I’ve never heard a man say that any of these things impresses him enough to call it love.

And really, isn’t that what we are all wanting? The need to feel pretty isn’t about knowing that we are Vogue-worthy, it’s about getting the attention of a love interest. One who is smart and handsome and well-off and well-appointed and romantic and rugged (No small amount of pressure for our menfolk there). But those men aren’t after the young and palpably sexy blonde, so why do we strive to be like her? I don’t deny those women are pleasing to look at. And I don’t deny that I, given the opportunity, wouldn’t want to take one home myself. But is that walking list of beauty editor favorites any more likely to find love than we are?

I have known a few truly pretty people. Men and women both. And none of them is any more successful at love than the rest of us schmoes.  I think, and as I get older, I am really starting to believe that what attracts love is beauty. And, honey, beauty sometimes ain’t pretty.

The ones I know who appear to truly have found the sort of love we all seek won’t be on the cover of Vanity Fair. They have wrinkles and sags and mommy-tummies. They aren’t always decked out in their finest. They burp and sweat and have strange laughs and morning breath and sometimes forget to shave. They dig in the garden, nurse their children, clean the bathroom, scoop the innards out of the turkey. In other words, they are schmoes just like us. But if you look closely, you will see something else. And if for some reason you can’t see it, you can tell that their spouse does.

Ask the spouse and they’ll tell you. It’s in the way she laughs like Cliff Claven on Cheers. It’s the way she yells at the TV when her team makes a great play. It’s the fact that she can fix both the ceiling fan and a standing rib roast. It’s the way she closes her eyes when she eats something decadent. It’s in her intellect, her humor, her goofiness, her character. But, mostly, it’s in her eyes.

As much as the eyes are the window to the soul, they are also the window to love. And tho it would seem logical to compare it to a magnet or a tractor beam, it is really more like the sun. When she glances over at him, sweaty and stinky and covered in grass after playing with the kids on the front lawn, her eyes appear like a sunrise. A glowing beam of warmth and respect and genuine affection. When she glances at him, his evening drink in hand, legs kicked out on the back porch while listening to cicadas and tree frogs, her eyes become like a sunset. Deep and rich and dark with the promise of stars soon

And, oh, she can bring him stars. The more-than-ample bum becomes exactly what he likes, regardless of the fact that she often wishes it were smaller. It is what he wants because he has seen the sunrise and the sunset and the lovely afternoon in between. Because, though he, too, wishes he were taller and thinner and somehow better, in the end, all he wants is to see that look in her eye.

Following my logic so far, to be beautiful, we have to find love. And to find love, we have to be beautiful.

Hey, I never said my theories made sense.

But if I had to come up with a way to make it make sense, perhaps the love we need to be beautiful isn’t the love for another, but a love for ourselves and for life. A love that allows us to take joy in a fragrant blossom, a delicious flan, a sweet kitten… A magnificent thunderstorm, a kick-ass guitar lick, an unlikely touchdown. Maybe that’s the kind of love that brings it back to us.

And if that’s the case, then we all have a chance. Even those of us with rolls and gas and hairy toes. Even those of us with chapped lips and unibrows and back fat. Even those of us who are old or chubby or plain. Even those of us who aren’t pretty.

Thank God

Herbert Was Wrong

They tell me it’s because i’m getting older. All these things that keep popping up. Getting lost. Falling off. I just keep thinking to myself, “That can’t be right. I’m not old.” As an American woman, i’m supposed to be in my prime. OK, maybe the saying is about sexual prime, but it stands to reason that you wouldn’t hit your sexual prime only to have your body and brain fail for no good reason. I hope God isn’t that kind of Sadist.

I am reasonably fit. I eat healthy most of the time. My weight is spot on the recommendations. I sleep a full night. I take medicines as directed. I don’t overindulge in alcohol. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I try to meditate. I try not to break the law. I wear my seatbelt. And i don’t wear white pants after Labor Day. Yet i am plagued. Cholesterol. Shingles. Menopause (OK, maybe that isn’t a bad thing after all), bifocals, bunions, hypertension that causes other complications, osteoporosis, wrinkles, sags, bags… And now i’m losing my mind.

My similarly middle-age friends tell jokes about going into a room and forgetting why they’re there. They lose their keys. They can’t recall phone numbers. They draw a blank on the name of their partners’ favorite beer. They miss important dates. They forget to thaw the chops for dinner. Me? I accidentally call my daughters by each others’ names. I have accidentally called my son my dog’s name. I have stared at the dog and for the life of me can’t remember the word for that species of animal. And when i get angry or excited or giddy? The words in my head come out in the wrong order. And not like Yoda, either. Like a verbal Yahtzee toss. It’s frustrating as hell. To be there, mouth open, word at the back of my mouth and i can’t bring it forth. And it gets scary when i hear a thought come out of my mouth and it makes no sense.

As a writer, words are important to me. I will delete whole paragraphs from a piece of work if i can’t find the perfect word for a single thought. I love my Thesaurus. And much like Charlotte from her web, i will yell from my laptop to my weedlings to request ideas for a word that means suchandsuch. I try to say and write exactly what i mean. To be unable to pull those words out of my brain is like craving Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday. Vexatious. To hear gibberish come out of my mouth is more like hearing Elmo swear. Sacrilege.

Now, i realize that it seems far worse to me than to those around me. I am able, sometimes, to recognize that my mouth is awry and manage to shut it before spouting off like a word puzzle from the Sunday paper. And perhaps my panic magnifies the issue in my personal reality. Perhaps i don’t deal well with stress, and it short-circuits my brain when i can’t maintain calm. Perhaps all people my age say “cat” when they mean “coffee” on occasion. Perhaps all our brains are so full, at this age, that the files get jumbled. Perhaps the cumulative effects of weed and Bovine Growth Hormones and red dye #5 are catching up with my generation and having a bad impact. Perhaps we all are losing our memory bit by bit. Perhaps. But, damnit, I DON’T LIKE IT! I DON’T WANT IT! AND I REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE FACT THAT I AM NO LONGER YOUNG!

Ma was just a couple of years older than i am now when she died. This makes it difficult to assess how i compare in the familial trend, though i remember my grandmothers from both sides being sharp and acute til the very end, and they were much longer lived. I hesitate to compare my brain to the men before me because, well, let’s face it… Male brains are a different animal entirely. Both my body doc and my head doc tell me that this is all normal, and that if i could learn to control my stress better, my brain will respond (As will the blood pressure, the shingles, the tmj… Pretty much everything but the bunions.) But i regularly attempt meditation, and i always fall asleep. I tried yoga, but the sweaty mats made me schieve. I considered running, but my boobs begged to differ. Tai Chi moves too slow. BioFeedback isn’t covered by my insurance. I’m too poor for regular massages.  And weed is illegal. So what is left? I write. I walk. And i bitch to my girlfriends. I may still be stressed out, but i’d hate to see what i’d be like without those things. I’d probably explode like in that old movie Scanners. And that would give my children nightmares, so that option is out.

In my all-time favorite book, Flowers For Algernon, i still cry every time i get to the part where Charlie starts to lose his edge. The pain of him knowing what is seeping away is so profound that it stabs me right through the pages. And i worry it will happen to me. Even knowing in my head that i am no worse off than anyone else my age, my soul still panics at the thought of losing my intellect. I have no doubt that my healers are correct and that obtaining some zen, some way, some how, will improve my health and clarity. Tho i may still misplace my dog, i will at least be able to remember her species. It’s an improvement anyway.

In Dune, when Paul is tested by the Bene Gesserit, he recites a mantra to remind him that fear is the mind killer. I disagree. It isn’t fear. The real mind killer is stress.

The Breakfast Cereal Aisle of Life

I remember years ago reading an essay by a man who was born and raised in Soviet Russia. He was describing his first visit to an American supermarket. He said he nearly had a breakdown in the cereal aisle in the face of so many choices. He was used to choosing between two or three. Over 100 choices available? Just for breakfast cereal??? It was overwhelming.

At the time, i found his crisis humorous. Too many choices… What a problem to have! With my second decade thinking, it seemed unfathomable for variety to cause an existential crisis. But now, at this moment, i get it.

While in the throes of panic from my middle weedling leaving the nest, i find myself in the midst of a unique opportunity. My oldest weedling is on her own, more than capable, and on her way to making her own niche. My youngest is about to embark on a transition year. And as for me, for the first time in my life, i have to make a life choice that has no connection to a man. Not  being happily married, not unhappily married, not wishing to be married… no man at all to consider. Just me and my own future. The immediate vision is like that of Montana in the springtime… Fresh new grass and budding stems for as far as the eye can see. How exciting! I can go anywhere! My life isn’t tied to any stake at all! The possibilities are endless! Yeah, baby!

And then i start to consider them. All those possibilities. And i feel like the man in the supermarket.

While it is true that my choices are narrowed somewhat by the need to have an appropriate atmosphere for my son, that really only takes the raisin bran off the shelf. There are still so many other choices! Too many. So i take away any place that has bad memories. Wheaties, off the shelf. Places with no work for me. Mini-wheats, off the shelf. Places too difficult to travel from. Cheerios, off the shelf. But there’s still Life and Apple Jacks and Sugar Smacks, and Cap’n Crunch. There’s still Special K and Chex and Cornflakes and Lucky Charms. All these choices. Each with their own taste and appeal and price. The pragmatist in me has started making lists and charts, comparisons of the many brands available. The gypsy in me visualizes the many bowls of color and texture. The child in me sits on the floor of the store and weeps in fear and fluster.

To quote Maria Von Trapp, “When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” Only in my case, he has flung open windows, doors, hatches, chimney flues and skylights. So many escape routes, and nothing actually chasing me. Oh, the irony. The only thing i know for certain is that i have been given this opportunity for a reason. That God has trusted me with something very special – my own future. A blank slate, a full buffet, a veritable Kellogg’s factory of choices. And i take the responsibility very seriously. After all, after i buy the whole grain goodness, i’m the one who has to eat it.

So the Gypsy picks the child off the floor. The Pragmatist makes a list of the cereals that meet the nutritional, flavor and price requirements. And all three of them will converse til the choice is made. I’m sure the dry-goods manager and the other shoppers will find this amusing. But, i suppose, so what? You could say, “What’s the big deal? It’s just cereal?” But me? I say it’s life.

What The Flock

It’s an ovine world. A sheep’s world, that is (Don’t feel badly – I had to look it up, too). And most of those sheep are white.

The white sheep, they do what is expected. They live the WonderBread life. Work, spouse, kids… They vacation in Florida, they organize church picnics, they coach little league, they go to the gym . They invest our money, clean our teeth, teach our kids, run our cities. They are the bulk of our country.  And they are wonderful. They are the backbone on which our society stands. Yes, they sometimes follow each other off a cliff, but it’s that loyalty that keeps the nation from falling apart in times of strife.

The black sheep… Well, they come in shades from tan to jet, and they are ones exuding a passion. The actors, the musicians and dancers and artists… the ones who make us dream. The cops and firefighters and soldiers… the ones who keep us safe. The revolutionaries, the visionaries, the idealists, the life-poets. The movers and the shakers. And they are wonderful. They expand our field of vision and keep the white ones from becoming stagnant. Yes, the fire inside them sometimes burns too fiercely and they are removed, or remove themselves, from our world. But their legend and purpose live on.

And what of the sheep that are blue? What of the pink ones or green ones? The ones who think so differently, are filled with such uniqueness, that the masses don’t know what to make of them? The ones whose personae are so vibrant that they can only be viewed through photo negatives or cheap sunglasses. The perpetual Rudolphs. What of them? Tho they have a common bond of uncommonness, they are no group, no flock. They are the wanderers, the gypsies, the witches and hobbits and sprites.  No, they don’t build empires or paint chapel ceilings or run congressional committees. They don’t have typical attitudes or ideas or lives. They make us laugh, they make us cry, and they keep us paying attention. And they are wonderful.

I am the zebra striped one with the chartreuse legs and the tangerine tail. Which sheep are you?

Come On

(Another oldie of mine. )
I see the sun setting on the horizon, beyond the green fields and gardens ahead… Yes, hills and valleys and roses and weeds and both stepping stones and some slippery slopes along the way. I can see it all laid out before me.

In my gut, i know that sunset is my sunset. The glow of me as i become one again with the cosmos… And for the first time in my life, i see a clear path to that destination, and the path is wide enough for me to share with others. No longer am i winding alone on a narrow and hidden and sometimes scary path. This is open and airy and free… Free! And so much along the way…

I’ve never seen my sunset before. You’d think it’d be scary. But it isn’t. In fact, it has me in wide-eyed awe. It’s so warm and bright… I am not afraid, but not eager to meet it. I just am comfortable walking towards it… enjoying what i pass on the way. And knowing i’m sharing it with those who see the significance of the destination.

I am being called down this path. Called by an energy much bigger than i am. It comes from within the sunset itself. It’s telling me to come on. To take my time and pace myself, to really see the sights along the way, take the hands given me and use them for strength and comfort when the path gets slippery…. But come on. Come on. It’s time.

And so i go… i set out on this path with my eyes wide open, taking in the beauty around me and loving the glow that the setting sun casts on my path, and my companions, and, i know in my heart, on myself. Bask in the glow. Take all the time i need. Enjoy the walk. Come on. Come on.

My First Night Out As A Single Gal

(This is an old bit of mine, reposted just for fun)

Otherwise entitled, “WTF is he thinking?!?!?!?!”

A girlfriend and i decide to do what single women sometimes do, and meet for a late night drink and nosh at a fun outdoor bar. It seems promising when we get there… even at this hour, it’s mostly people our age.

I rarely go out, and never to bars, so i have no idea what to order. I tell the bartender, “Can i have something a little sweet that won’t knock me on my ass?” He brings me a drink that is exactly what i was after. When i ask what it is, he blushes a little and tells me it’s a Wet Pu***. (Later, after i’d had a couple, i asked him if there was one called a Wet Di**. He tells me what’s in it, and i ask him do we get it free if we can fit it in our mouth all at once? You see why i don’t drink much). Anyway, so we drink, and have some fantastic peel-n-eat shrimp and onion rings and such. We chat with each other, and chat up the women around us. I’m thinking this isn’t so bad. Every man in the bar is pretty much drunk, but that makes up for the fact that they’re all ignoring me.

After a while, the woman beside us has some insightful epiphany and invites a friend of a friend over and starts him talking to us. Before long, he is standing behind us, nose in our ears as he speaks to us (All of you who know me well know that my ears are off limits), hands all over our shoulders and necks (C’mon girls, collective “Ewwwwww”), and – this is the weird part – he is somehow managing to prop his leg up in such a way that his knee is wedging itself into my butt crack. Honey, you could be Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta Jones, whoever – but i AM NOT letting you stick your knee up my ass. So i keep squirming myself at an angle, but his leg joint follows me like toilet paper on a shoe. My girlfriend, trying to be cute, makes some comment after he asks a question, about how he and i should really have a whole date to discuss it. Bitch! (Not really. Now that it’s over, i think it’s funny too). At one point, i almost start to think that this guy wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that he’s drunk and has a fixation on patellar-anal intercourse… and then he starts to tell me more about himself. I figured him in his early 50s, probably working middle management somewhere. Turns out he’s younger than i am, only looks 15 years older, with a job that, while less than promising, is only a fall back because he lost his job recently when his wife divorced him, and he can barely afford the tuition on his 2 year old’s preschool, and the ex still owes him for the business they started but she’s ruining it, and can you hand me that ashtray, and now he’s got his hand wrapped around my upper arm and i’m thinking that may no longer be just his knee. (Another collective “Ewwww”) Oh, my… is that the time? We really must be going…

OK. It’s funny now. I wasn’t going there to find a date anyway. And my girlfriend and i will laugh about it for a long time. But it does beg one to wonder if Darwin is watching all this from the great beyond and scratching his head…